Prosecutor says killing was planned

The case against Warren Powell is a circumstantial one, a prosecutor said Thursday, but one that poi

The case against Warren Powell is a circumstantial one, a prosecutor said Thursday, but one that points directly at one suspect.

The body of Rotterdam native Mary Ann Powell was found on the east bank of the Hudson River in Columbia County, where she knew no one but where her husband grew up and had family.

“Where did all this happen?” prosecutor H. Neal Conolly asked a Columbia County Court jury. “Minutes from where Mr. Powell bought a boat.”

“I submit it was planned,” Conolly said earlier in his closing arguments. “Portions of it were well executed. But it was not the perfect crime.”

Conolly gave his closing arguments Thursday afternoon in the long-awaited retrial of 38-year-old Warren Powell.

Prosecutors allege Warren Powell killed his 22-year-old wife Oct. 1, 1994, the day she was last seen, and dumped her body in the Hudson River. The couple were living in Halfmoon at the time. The body wasn’t found until nearly two years later.

Powell faces 25 years to life in state prison if he is convicted of murder. The jury was also given the option of convicting him of manslaughter.

He is already serving a 15-to-30-year sentence from an unrelated case Schenectady County. He was convicted there of drug sale and possession. He is up for parole in that case in 2012.

Albany attorney Steve Coffey, who is defending Powell, argued in his own closings that the prosecution’s case against Powell doesn’t hold together, relying on faulty timing, faulty reasoning and even manufactured evidence.

Coffey said the prosecution’s timeline doesn’t fit. A killer wouldn’t have planned a killing for broad daylight, bought a boat and risked being discovered by dumping a body in the river, he said.

“You can’t be both smart and stupid at the same time,” Coffey argued.

A centerpiece of the prosecution’s case is a boat. Investigators testified that Powell bought the boat the day his wife disappeared. He also never told investigators about it until they discovered Powell’s call that day to the boat seller.

But Coffey argued that if Powell was really trying to hide the purchase, he wouldn’t have made the call from his home phone, where there would be a record. He wouldn’t have put the boat’s registration in his safe.

Furthermore, the boat itself was in state police hands by November 1994, after Powell told them where it was. But no scratches were noticed.

An expert testified earlier that scratches on the boat’s seat matched the hockey bag in which Mary Ann Powell’s body was found.

Coffey conceded that the bag and boat were in contact with each other.

But that didn’t happen until later, he suggested.

He pointed to testimony of the hockey bag’s alleged owner. After not being sure when he last saw the bag, the man finally said it was in December 1994, Coffey argued.

“If he’s telling you that bag is in the barn in December 1994, then that bag is not in the Hudson River in October 1994,” Coffey argued, adding later, “the only way that bag could have caused those marks is the state police, after they found the body, to get that bag and put it on the [boat] seat.”

Conolly argued the witness gave two dates, the other January 1994. The jury would have to decide which was accurate.

Coffey also highlighted an unidentified hair found with the body, along with soil. Coffey characterized them as being found in Mary Ann Powell’s hand. Conolly noted the body and the bag were in the Hudson River and that the debris was not found in her hand, but in the bag.

As for the allegations of evidence fabrication, Conolly said to believe that would mean that more than a dozen officers from different agencies got together in a secret conspiracy to frame Powell.

Conolly also returned to Powell’s own testimony, arguing that when Conolly asked him to recount the last hours he was with his wife, who was six months pregnant, he could only recall her lying on the bed.

“He could not tell you this,” Conolly said. “The last time that he saw his wife, six months pregnant with child, and he could not tell you. She was on the bed? That’s all he recalled?”

The jury deliberated into the evening and then went home. They were expected to return today.

Categories: Schenectady County

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